The invention provides a biological sampling and storage container
which is easy and sanitary to use, may be shipped through regular
mail, and includes a drying material or desiccant for drying feces
samples that are stored therein. The sampling and storage container
consists of a body having a sampling chamber and a drying chamber
which are in gaseous communication with each other. Preferably,
a sampling wand is frictionally retained in the sampling chamber
and the drying material is disposed in the drying chamber.
What is claimed is:
1. A container for collecting and storing fecal samples comprising:
a tube comprised of a sampling chamber at one end of said tube and
a drying chamber at the other end; a sampling wand coaxially retained
within said sampling chamber, said wand having a sampling tip formed
on one end thereof extending into said sampling chamber; a gas permeable
barrier positioned between said sampling chamber and said drying
chamber; and a drying material disposed in said drying chamber;
wherein said container does not include a liquid for interaction
with a sample contained therein.
2. A container for collecting and storing fecal samples comprising:
a tube comprised of a sampling chamber having a mouth and a drying
chamber having a mouth; a sampling wand coaxially retained within
said sampling chamber, said wand having a sampling tip formed on
one end thereof extending into said chamber and a plug formed on
the opposite end for closing said sampling chamber when the wand
is inserted; a plug shaped to be inserted into and retained in said
drying chamber mouth; a gas permeable barrier positioned between
said sampling chamber and said drying chamber; and a drying material
disposed in said drying chamber wherein said container does not
include a liquid for interaction with a sample contained therein.
3. The container of claim 2 wherein said tube is cylindrical in
4. The container of claim 2 wherein said gas permeable barrier
comprises a constriction positioned between said sampling chamber
and said drying chamber, said constriction preventing said drying
material from contacting the sample.
5. The container of claim 2 wherein said sampling-tip includes
a plurality of grooves formed thereon for collecting a sample within
6. The container of claim 2 wherein said sampling tip is spatula-like
7. The container of claim 2 wherein said wand includes a cap positioned
to seal said sampling chamber mouth.
8. The container of claim 2 wherein said wand is frictionally retained
in said sampling chamber mouth.
9. The container of claim 2 wherein said wand is threadably retained
in said sampling chamber mouth.
10. The container of claim 2 wherein said drying material is selected
from the group consisting of silica gels or clays, vermiculite,
zeolite compounds, calcium chloride, anhydrous chemicals, desiccant
papers, activated alumina, molecular sieves, and chemical compositions
having hydrophilic properties.
11. The sampling and storage container of claim 2 wherein said
drying material is silica gel.
12. The container of claim 11 wherein said drying material is silica
13. The container of claim 11 wherein said drying material is molecular
sieves originating from zeolite compounds which absorb molecules
due to electrostatic attraction.
14. The container of claim 2 wherein said gas permeable barrier
is a gas permeable membrane.
15. The container of claim 2 wherein said gas permeable barrier
is a screen positioned between said sampling chamber and said drying
16. The container of claim 2 wherein said gas permeable barrier
is a fine mesh cloth positioned between said sampling chamber and
said drying chamber.
17. The container of claim 2 wherein said wand includes a tab positioned
on an end thereof to facilitate removal of said wand from said mouth
of said sampling chamber.
18. The container of claim 2 wherein said mouth of said drying
chamber is mechanically closed thereby sealing said drying material
in said sampling chamber.
19. The container of claim 2 where said drying material is a combination
of silica gel and activated carbon.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to an instrument for sampling and storing
biological samples and particularly feces for use in biological
or medical testing that may be easily and sanitarily packaged and
sent via mail. More particularly, this invention relates to a disposable
feces sampling and storage device that is inexpensive to produce
and includes a desiccant to aid in drying a sample of feces that
is stored therein.
In the field of medical care, lab tests that are performed on samples
of body tissue, blood, urine, feces, etc., have become indispensable
tools in aiding doctors with the diagnoses of the illnesses of their
patients. With the continual development of new technology fueling
the creation of new and improved lab equipment, new testing procedures
are developed and old testing procedures are improved on an almost
daily basis. While many of these tests necessarily require that
blood be drawn or tissue be removed in order to perform the tests,
it is generally desirable to use less invasive testing procedures
whenever possible. Furthermore, some tests, such as the test for
occult blood to verify the presence of gastrointestinal bleeding
and tests for intestinal infections and parasites must be performed
on fecal samples. Accordingly, testing procedures which use samples
that can be collected using non-invasive procedures, such as urine
and feces, have become increasingly popular among doctors and patients
in recent years.
With the development of increased numbers of testing procedures
which require the use of fecal samples, the demand for improved
devices to sanitarily sample and transport these samples has correspondingly
grown. In order to fill this need, there have been devices which
have been designed for this purpose. For example, U.S. Pat. No.
5149506 to Skiba et al. discloses a stool collection and transport
device which is composed of a vial having a sealable lid with an
aperture formed therein for engaging a second lid. The second lid
has a sampling spoon secured to the underside thereof so that a
stool sample may be collected using the spoon and then sanitarily
deposited in the collection vial.
While fecal sampling devices such as the one disclosed in the Skiba
patent may be useful for collecting large samples which may then
be sampled again using a smaller sampling device, these types of
devices are generally not conducive to being sent through the mail.
Furthermore, many of the latest fecal tests require that the samples
collected be treated in some way shortly after collection in order
to prevent degradation of the sample. For example, for some tests
that are used to determine the presence of occult blood in a fecal
sample, the sample must be stabilized in a liquid solution shortly
after collection. This stabilization procedure is necessary to lessen
the possibility that an inaccurate result is obtained from the test.
Examples of sampling devices that are particularly useful for this
type of test are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5514341 to Urata et
al. and U.S. Pat. No. 5543115 to Karakawa. Both of these patents
disclose devices for collecting and storing fecal samples for use
in testing procedures for the presence of occult blood. In order
to use these devices, the sample is collected on the end of a sampling
rod which is then inserted into a storage container having a fixed
amount of stabilizing solution, such as glycosidase-type bacteriolytic
enzyme, contained therein. Then, the container is sealed and the
sample is allowed to mix with the stabilizing solution. Finally,
when the sample is ready for testing, the stabilized liquid is passed
through a filter which is preferably secured in the container. The
testing procedure is then run on the filtrate.
While the devices disclosed in these patents are useful for testing
procedures that determine the presence of occult blood and require
that the sample be stabilized shortly after collection as described
above, there are other testing procedures for which these types
of devices are not particularly well-suited. For example, in some
testing procedures, such as the occult blood assays that detect
labile exoantigens and cell associated antigens of C. difficile,
E. coli, it is preferred that the sample be as dry as possible.
Thus, the presence of a stabilization liquid, or any liquid at all
for that matter, is considered undesirable. Furthermore, since liquid
is not used in the stabilization procedure, the use of a filter
and dropper assembly as disclosed in the Urata patent is unnecessary.
Accordingly, it would be desirable to have a feces sampling and
storage container that can be used for easily collecting and storing
feces samples that need to be maintained in a relatively dry atmosphere.
Preferably, the container would be small and self contained so that
it would be easy and inexpensive to transport or mail and would
include a device or substance for aiding in the drying of the sample,
such as a desiccant. Preferably, the container would be inexpensive
to produce so that it would be disposable and would be simple to
use so that a patient or untrained individual could easily use the
device to collect a sample with little or no instruction.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In accordance with the present invention, a feces sampling and
storage container is provided which is comprised of a generally
hollow body and a sampling wand shaped to frictionally or threadably
engage and plug one end of the body. The sampling wand is relatively
long and has a sampling tip positioned at its distal end that is
designed to collect a sample of at least a minimum size when the
sampling wand is inserted into a feces sample and removed. In a
preferred embodiment, the sampling tip of the wand is formed in
a broad tipped "spatula" shape having grooves and protrusions
formed thereon. Thus, when the sampling tip is inserted into a mass
of feces, an adequate amount of sample is collected in the grooves
and on the tip.
Preferably, the body of the container is tubular in shape and has
at least two chambers. The container does not include a liquid for
interaction with a sample contained therein. One of the chambers,
the sampling chamber, is designed to receive the sampling wand.
The other chamber, the drying chamber, is designed to hold a drying
device, such as a desiccant. The drying chamber is maintained in
gaseous communication with the sampling chamber by a gas permeable
barrier so that water vapor from the sample may be drawn away from
the sample to the desiccant. Preferably a screen or other device,
such as a constriction in the body, a wad of cotton or a gas permeable
membrane, is used to hold the desiccant in the drying chamber and
away from direct contact with the sample. This is desired because
direct contact between the desiccant and the sample could contaminate
the sample causing inaccurate test results. Furthermore, the desiccant
could become fouled thereby affecting its ability to remove water
from the sample as desired.
In a preferred embodiment, the sampling wand includes a stopper
end which is constructed to be frictionally received and held in
a mouth of the body. The stopper seals the container preventing
water vapor from getting into the container once the sample is collected
while simultaneously preventing any of the sample from leaking out.
This is important because the integrity of the container must be
maintained during shipping and handling due to sanitary concerns.
Furthermore, this prevents contamination of the sample from outside
contaminants, helping to insure that the tests performed on samples
retrieved and stored using the sampling and storage container of
the present invention yield results which are as accurate as possible.
Additionally, in a preferred embodiment, a thumb tab is formed on
the top of the stopper to assist a user in the insertion and removal
of the wand from the body, as well as in the sanitary collection
of a sample.
Preferably the sampling and storage container of the present invention
is made from a lightweight inexpensive plastic, such as polyethylene,
which is liquid and gas impermeable. In a preferred construction,
the container is composed of three separate pieces: the body, the
sampling wand, and a plug, although other constructions are possible
and considered within the scope of the invention. For example, acceptable
alternate embodiments would include crimping the end of the body
shut once the desiccant is placed in the drying chamber or forming
the drying chamber with a closed end and inserting the desiccant
from the top. Preferably, the body is molded to form a hollow tube
that includes the aforementioned sampling and drying chambers. The
wand, preferably formed from a relatively rigid plastic, is shaped
as described above and has a stopper end with a diameter sized so
that it may be frictionally fit into the sampling chamber end of
the tube shaped body. A plug, having a similarly sized diameter,
is also provided to close the mouth of the drying end of the tube
once the desiccant has been placed in the drying chamber.
These and other objects and advantages of the present invention
will be more fully understood and appreciated by reference to the
following description, the accompanying drawings and the appended
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of a feces storage and transport
container utilizing a desiccant in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a side elevational view of a body for use with the feces
storage and transport container of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is an end view of the body of FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of a wand for use with the feces
storage and transport container of FIG. 1;
FIG. 5 is a side elevational view of the wand of FIG. 4 taken along
line 5--5; and
FIG. 6 is an end view of the wand of FIG. 4.
Referring to FIG. 1 the feces sampling and transport container
utilizing a desiccant of the present invention, generally designated
10 is comprised mainly of a body 12 a sampling wand 14 and a
plug 16. Preferably, as best shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 the body 12
is tubular in shape and has a relatively small diameter and length
(approximately 3/8 of an inch in diameter and 5 inches in length)
so that it may be sent through regular mail in a standard flat envelope.
The body 12 includes at least two chambers 18 20. The sampling
chamber 18 includes a mouth 22 which is shaped to frictionally receive
and retain the sampling wand 14 or includes threads to threadedly
receive a threaded stopper end of a sampling wand (not shown). The
drying chamber 20 is positioned adjacent to and in gaseous communication
with the sampling chamber 18 and also includes a mouth 24 which
is shaped to receive and frictionally retain the plug 16. The drying
chamber 20 is structured to hold a drying material, such as a desiccant,
26. Examples of drying materials that would be operative in the
present invention include, but are not limited to, silica gels or
clays, vermiculite, desiccant papers, activated alumina, zeolite
compounds, molecular sieves, or anhydrous chemicals such as calcium
sulfate etc. Preferably a gas permeable barrier 47 such as a constriction
28 cloth 48 or screen 49 or gas permeable membrane 50 is placed
between the sampling chamber 18 and the drying chamber 20 in order
to keep the drying material 26 from intermixing with and contaminating
or becoming fouled by the sample (not shown).
As can best be seen in FIGS. 4 5 and 6 the sampling wand 14
is relatively long and thin and is comprised of a sampling tip 30
a shank 32 a stopper end 34 and a thumb tab 36. The sampling tip
30 is positioned at the distal end of the wand 14 and is designed
to collect a sample of at least a minimum size when the sampling
wand 14 is inserted into and removed from a fecal sample (not shown).
In a preferred embodiment, the sampling tip 30 is formed in a broad
"spatula-like" shape and has grooves 38 and protrusions
40 formed thereon. This configuration is advantageous because when
the sampling tip 30 is inserted into a mass of feces (not shown),
an adequate amount of sample is collected on the tip 30 as well
as in between the grooves 38 and protrusions 40.
Continuing up the wand 14 a shank 32 is provided between the tip
30 and the stopper end 34. In order to increase the rigidity of
the wand 14 thereby making it easier to insert into a fecal sample
(not shown), the shank 32 widens into an "X" shaped branch
42 prior to joining the stopper end 34. The stopper end 34 has an
effective outer diameter, formed by the legs of the "X"
shaped branch 42 that is slightly larger than the inner diameter
of the mouth 22 so that the wand 14 can be frictionally received
and retained in the body 12. A cap 44 is formed on the wand 14 and
is shaped to cover the mouth 22 thereby preventing moisture from
getting into the body 12 as well as prevent sample from getting
out. The thumb tab 36 is positioned above the cap 44 and includes
ribs 46 positioned thereon to facilitate the removal and replacement
of the wand 14 to and from the body 12.
The operation of the feces sampling and transport container utilizing
a desiccant 10 of the present invention is as follows. A drying
material 26 is loaded into the drying chamber 20 of the body 12
and the plug 16 is placed in the mouth 24 thereby sealing the drying
material 26 therein. A user grasps the thumb tab 36 of the sampling
wand 14 and urges it outward in order to remove the wand 14 from
the body 12. The sampling tip 30 is then inserted into a feces sample
(not shown). Preferably the wand 14 is rotated while in the sample
in order to insure that an adequate amount of sample is collected
on the sampling tip 30 as well as in the grooves 38. The user then
reinserts the wand 14 into the mouth 22 of the body 12 being careful
not to touch the sampling tip 30 to the outside of the body 12.
The wand 14 is then securely seated in the body 12 until the cap
44 rests flush against the mouth 22. At this point the drying material
26 begins operating to draw moisture away from the sample (not shown)
as is desired. Thus, the feces sampling and transport container
10 is in condition for shipping or transportation to a lab for testing.
While the device illustrated employs a plug 16 to seal the drying
chamber 20 the tube can also be extruded with a closed end and
filled with drying material from the open sampling end. The drying
chamber can then be closed by inserting a cloth, screen or a ball
of a material such as cotton.
While the form of the apparatus herein described constitutes a
preferred embodiment of the invention, it is to be understood that
the invention is not limited to this precise form of apparatus,
and that changes may be made therein without departing from the
scope of the invention.